Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cynicism justified in city council race

My friend and former colleague the Amarillo Globe-News, John Kanelis, has become quite a prolific blogger and recently commented on the campaign contribution story in the out-of-town-owned daily paper. He noted that for a paltry $10 a week to attend City Council meetings, the amount of money seemed pretty high. He posited that the money spent on the race reflected a commitment to public service.

“I will add this observation, however. If the candidates are going to spend nearly 300 grand collectively for an office that basically pays them nothing, then I suspect a serious commitment to public service from all of them — incumbents and challengers alike.

That speaks well for Amarillo.”

I posted my response page, but it didn’t stay up for some reason. However, I am much more cynical. I believe the intensity of this race stems from either power and ego or something far more sinister.

It is quite obvious from those who have covered the council that there are huge egos play and those egos are deeply invested in the downtown development. Those plans seem to have backfired with the implosion of master developer Wallace Bajjali Development Partners. Councilors, with the exception of Brian Eades but particularly the mayor, refuse to admit how badly they have done their job and how pathetic their choice of the master developer one. But, the real question is whether something deeper is happening.

Don’t forget that a grand jury and the FBI are investigating certain transaction of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. and its transaction concerning the Commerce Building. Between the inside dealing and admission by several counselors that they knew nothing about the price sale of that property, the deal reeks. A few months ago, K VI I traced ownership connections and found that former Mayor Debra McCartt’s husband was involved in one of the partnerships. But, Joe Bob McCartt’s involvement wasn’t obvious — name was found associated with a limited liability corporation that is involved in the deal.

Down the road, who knows what interests the current councilmembers might have for how they might benefit.

Many people believe that backscratching within the business community is no more than good old boys taking care of one another. They reject the notion that this type of behavior is corruption. If rolling over real estate between business people results in profitable trade-offs amongst themselves, that’s fine and dandy. However, the deals that we have seen are using a lot of taxpayer money and when that happens it becomes corruption.

I do not apologize for my skepticism or cynicism. Over the past 20 years, those attributes have contributed to my being a good journalist. When dealing with politics and public money, it’s clear to me this type of vigilance is necessary.